With Ivy League basketball teams posting early upsets over Big Ten and ACC opponents, this season promises to be one of the more exciting ones in recent Ancient Eight hoops history. This winter the entertainment will not be confined to eight gyms tucked away in the Northeast — it will be available in millions of homes all across the country.
The Ivy League has not officially announced any television agreements, but officials at two networks, HDNet and CNN/Sports Illustrated, have said their stations will offer national broadcasts of Ivy League basketball games this winter. Details for this year’s plans are not fully available, and HDNet and CNN/Sports Illustrated may only be parts of a broader network of stations broadcasting Ivy League basketball this year.
The Ivy League has not had a leaguewide television deal since one in 1999-2000 with satellite programming provider DIRECTV. Executive Director of the Ivy League Jeff Orleans ’67 LAW ’71 said Tuesday afternoon that he could not comment on any prospective television packages because no official agreements had been reached.
HDNet, available only through DIRECTV, will produce high-definition broadcasts of league contests beginning in January, said Rachel Weaver, who is in charge of scheduling and programming at the network. Weaver said she did not have a finalized schedule of games to be aired but said it would include a Jan. 11 contest between Princeton and Harvard and a men’s and women’s doubleheader Jan. 19 between Brown and Yale.
The cable and satellite network CNN/Sports Illustrated, which reaches 21 million homes across the country, will also be airing both men’s and women’s Ivy hoops this winter, said Jaime Morrison, a producer at the network. Morrison said the station will begin airing select Ivy League games starting Jan. 5 and continuing through March 6. CNN/Sports Illustrated, launched Dec. 12, 1996, currently carries sports such NASCAR, professional lacrosse and NCAA volleyball, as well as daily sports news programs.
According to Morrison’s schedule, Yale’s basketball teams would have three games on CNN/Sports Illustrated — the Jan. 19 Brown doubleheader and a men’s game against Harvard on March 1.
In an e-mail sent out Friday morning, the Yale athletics department announced new starting times for those three basketball games but made no mention of them being televised. No other games were rescheduled.
The schedule Morrison gave for CNN/Sports Illustrated included games Weaver said HDNet would be airing — an overlap that is not unusual.
HDNet’s broadcasts require a satellite dish and a television capable of receiving a high-definition signal. Philip Garvin, general manager and chief operating officer of HDNet said the numbers of homes in America with this access is in the tens of thousands.
CNN/Sports Illustrated will offer HDNet broadcasts in standard definition, which does not require high-definition technology, Garvin said. The two networks also combine to offer professional lacrosse broadcasts in both high and standard definition.
While HDNet plans to make standard definition of its Ivy broadcasts available on CNN/Sports Illustrated, it is not clear that that network’s games will be limited to what is airing on HDNet. There is also the possibility that other networks may be involved in televising Ivy League basketball.
Currently, some Ivy schools also have regional television deals. The University of Pennsylvania, for example, airs games on regional cable channels CN8 and Comcast SportsNet.
Garvin, co-founder of HDNet along with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, said that televising Ivy League basketball on HDNet “makes sense” because the league was looking for a television package, and that the network wanted to increase its sports programming. HDNet also broadcasted the Harvard-Yale football game this year.
“Sports is what high definition is made for,” Garvin said. “Sports in high definition is awesome. It’s like being there.”
Garvin would not disclose the specific terms of a potential agreement between the network and the league.
In an interview last month, Orleans said that proposals for league sports television packages were being discussed. The general view among league administrators, he said, is that any television deal should be entirely self-supported by advertising sales.
Garvin said that both HDNet and the Ivy League can sell advertising for the broadcasts, and that commercial time would also be allotted for schools to air promotional spots.
HDNet, launched in September, broadcasts NHL games and professional lacrosse, as well as concerts, documentaries and special events coverage.